The Knoxville community packed the house at The Mill & Mine on Tuesday for a lively celebration of local inventors and innovation at the seventh annual Startup Day, the signature event of Innov865 Week.
The festivities kicked off with the first head-to-head matchup of the general election between Knoxville’s mayoral finalists, Eddie Mannis and Indya Kincannon. Moderated by WATE 6 On Your Side anchor Kristin Farley, the forum focused on the candidates’ plans to foster Knoxville’s growing entrepreneurship community and advance economic growth in the region. The candidates engaged in a lively debate about attracting innovators and new businesses to Knoxville, ideas for building a dedicated innovation district, ways to support minority-owned businesses, and pathways to ensuring Knoxville’s children and residents have access to the tools and technology necessary for economic opportunity.
At the annual pitch competition, local startup Winter Innovations was crowned 2019 Judge’s Choice winner as well as Crowd Favorite winner, an award sponsored by SunTrust Bank, and took home a combined cash prize of $10,000. This year’s pitch competition was the most competitive yet, as the Innov865 Alliance handpicked six local startups for their extraordinary potential and investability to participate in the “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition.
“SunTrust Bank is proud to support local entrepreneurs and invest in the future of our city and region,” said Harry Gross, Knoxville President of SunTrust Bank. “We join the Knoxville community in celebrating these startups and empowering new businesses and economic opportunity.”
Winter Innovations was named the winner in a fiercely competitive field of some of the area’s most investable startups, which included two software companies, two medical device companies, and two energy companies: Active Energy Systems, EDP Biotech, Reviewbox, SmartRIA, and TCPoly.
The entrepreneurs pitched their companies on-stage before a three-judge expert panel: Richard Dapaah, venture partner with FundRX and Knoxville Entrepreneur Center executive-in-residence; Sue Malone, president of Strategies for Small Business; and Ted Serbinski, Startup Day 2019’s featured guest and managing director of Techstars Mobility, an American seed accelerator with more than 1,900 companies in its portfolio that’s invested more than $6.2 billion in startups since 2006.
The day also featured fireside chat with President and CEO Kelly Tiller of Genera, a local startup affiliated with the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) that recently secured a $118 million investment for sustainable packaging and fiber products made from grass.
“Startup Day showcases the world-class technology and innovation happening right here in Knoxville, and importantly, rallies community leaders, officials, and citizens behind these entrepreneurs helping drive growth in our region,” said Maha Krishnamurthy, vice president of UTRF, a member of the Innov865 Alliance.
Innov865 Week continues this week with both public and invitation-only festivities including a reception with local startups and venture capitalists, happy hours, and networking opportunities with local startups and venture capitalists. On Thursday, September 26, all are invited to join two events: Innovation Crossroads Showcase, a celebration of Oak Ridge National Lab’s Innovation Crossroads graduates and showcase of the incoming cohort of new energy startups, and an Investor Series powered by Three Roots Capital with Bill Malkes, GRIDSMART co-founder and former CEO, and Grady Vanderhoofven, CEO of Three Roots Capital and Managing Partner of Meritus Capital, the lead investor in GRIDSMART. The events will be held at the Square Room at Cafe 4 at 4:00PM and 6:00PM, respectively. RSVP here for the Innovation Crossroads showcase and here for the Innov865 Investor Series. For a complete calendar of Innov865 happenings, go to innov865.com/calendar/.